Wednesday 23 June 2021

The Clumsy Promotion of British Nationalism

I've heard this abomination. Thousands of kids have had to sing it. And now it's your turn.

Like many people, I'm prone to ear worms. Those songs that stick in your brain and will not be shaken loose. It's not bad when it's something decent, but for the last two days this ostentatiously patriotic piffle, which all schoolchildren are officially being encouraged to sing on 25th June by the Department for Education, has proven an absolute torture.

Forget the silly Nazi Germany/Hitler Youth hyperbole peddled by more excitable types, One Britain One Nation is the official song of the One Britain One Nation campaign whose explicit aim is to develop a civic national identity similar in character to the 'official' nationalism of the SNP. Comrades fulminating against stormtroopers might want to reflect a bit deeply on the material proferred. Look at the video, it's very multi-culty with dozens of children from black and minority ethnicity backgrounds. Think about the happy clappy lyrics wedded to the trite incantations of our unitied unified nation in unity: not exactly Deutschland ├╝ber Alles. Check out the guy behind it, Kash Singh. A former copper, he won plaudits for his softly-softly community-based approach to policing in the wake of the Bradford riots. Is it likely the kinds of people booing at footy players taking the knee and exercised by the imaginary evils of the scapegoat-of-the-hour are going to see this video and welcome it? Doubtful. It will be dismissed as lefty crap as far as they're concerned.

Like the Gareth Southgate open letter, Singh's efforts sit in a recent tradition Boris Johnson's government are groping toward: the rebranding of British national identity undertaken by New Labour. Fortuitously for Tony Blair New Labour coincided with several movements, or moments, in British culture: a new wave of guitar rock, the exploding British R+B and club scenes, Brit art, city centres made safe for gentrification, the early internet, and decisive shifts in popular culture toward anti-racism, LGBTQ acceptance, and the bedding down of gains from the second wave of feminist struggle. Blair, as a relatively youthful leader and fresh face, rode the cultural wave of what he self-consciously branded a "young country". He talked about change and modernisation, and with a tired and broken Tory party in office the Blair of the 1990s and, arguably, up until the Iraq War looked the part for enough people.

But it was not enough to serve as an adjunct to it, the desires the moment unlocked had to be harnessed, and Blair did so in a superficial overhaul of how the British state operated. A parliament for Scotland, devolution for Wales, Northern Ireland, and London, and repositioning the monarchy following Princess Diana's death were all of a piece. Central to this was a new official anti-racism. Everyone had a place in Britain regardless of their ethnicity or religion, everyone had the right to equal opportunities and fairness, and the only people on the outside were those who eschewed "British values". Into this hat fell fascists, racists, travellers (of course), and following the September 11th attacks, jihadists and Islamists. One of the leftist critiques of the early New Labour years pointed out this top-down multiculturalism did not foster inclusivity: it effectuated division, allowed for a new beggar-thy-neighbour politics on the basis of communities competing for resources and representation in local government, quangos, public services, social and council housing, and government itself - all in the name of liberal tolerance.

20 years down the line, what was officially promoted is embedded in the everyday production of social life. Social liberalism is the spontaneous common sense of most people, and outright bigotry a minority view. It's understandable how the Tories, this most chameleon of political formations, are adapting themselves to it. Their war on woke puts them on the wrong side of history, and the more intelligent and far sighted Tories know it. Including, despite indulging the odd racism himself, the Prime Minister.

That said, while One Britain One Nation isn't a Tory front, it is curiously out of time and out of joint. Aside from football, British patriotism for most is a modest, unshowy thing. Contrary to what some think, flag waving is not a popular pastime in the red wall or anywhere else. State-mandated displays of national celebrations come to nought, such as the street parties the government encourages us to hold whenever a royal marries, a new sprog is born, or when the Queen reaches another milestone in her reign (looking forward to the Platinum Jubilee next year?). And likewise, so will this song and the hype around it - especially now it has government backing. In all likelihood, some kids will have memories to cringe to for decades to come but at best most parents and people won't notice it, and those who do will see it as tacky and fake. Inventing and pushing nationhood and national identity has to be subtle and worked at, it can't be mandated or condensed into a setpiece event. Whether it's called Our Britain Our Nation day or not.


David said...

It's a shame term has finished at the uni Phil, or you could have led your students in a rousing chorus or two.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of China's "belt and road" kids song:
Which actually was better written, but similarly jarring.

Anonymous said...

Not a lot of people know that this rather excellent 'Nazi' anthem...

was written by a pair of Jews specifically for Cabaret.

'Do you still think you can control them?'

BCFG said...

Part of me thinks that the immediate liberal reaction to anything that brings a collective identity/spirit is to immediately attack it. This response puts the neo into liberalism. I often think the liberation struggles of the 1960’s were really about dismantling this collective spirit and paving the way for Thatcherite individualism. Still I have to admit having that liberal reaction!

One thing to mention beside the fact that British people are not quite as flag waving as they are made out, they are also perfectly indifferent to LGBT, the vast majority literally couldn’t care less. The vast majority accept LGBT people and their rights. What the vast majority don’t really swallow is all the gender bullshit that comes along with it. Woke is permanently outraged by human frailties and weaknesses. So what someone said on Twitter 10 years ago. Woke is decidedly not interested in anything fundamental, like stopping migrants dying at sea.

It really is quite staggering to see all this amplified wokery in the midst of a culture which is literally killing the planet, causing a mass extinction, relying on global south cheap labour to supply it with the shit they absolutely do not need and seeing refugees go through all sorts of tribulations.

Woke is used by all sorts of unsavoury organisations and characters to give some semblance of respectability to whatever disgusting shit they are involved with. Woke is utterly retrograde and a step back into anti science, anti reason. The fact that some knuckle dragging far rightists hate it should not make us blind to this.

So, for example, every advert on TV is now a reflection of Woke. Woke, far from being shunned by the establishment or the ruling class, is enthusiastically embraced by these elements because it allows them to further their interests (eg wars of ‘ideology’, internet censorship, draconian law and order etc etc etc) and in the process gets idiotic liberals on-board too. The Tory war on woke is a figment of your imagination incidentally. I mean Theresa May is the Queen of woke!

So it comes as no surprise that a nauseating little jingle should also jump on the woke bandwagon.

And mark my words that bandwagon is only rolling because all sections of ruling class interest are shoving it down our throats like there is no tomorrow.

I always agreed with Marx on this, beware the bourgeois bearing gifts; when that happens you know something rotten is afoot.

asquith (stopped using google) said...

BCFG is a racist.

Blissex said...

«quite staggering to see all this amplified wokery [...] ruling class interest are shoving it down our throats like there is no tomorrow. I always agreed with Marx on this, beware the bourgeois bearing gifts»

It is quite pointless to argue against "wokery", whatever the merits, because that it is being promoted and sponsored by corporate interests is also because the ultimate prize that will be soon reached is this:

* Marx himself to be cancelled because "f*cking antisemite and racist".
* Socialism and even social democracy to be cancelled because "racist".

The second point is already emerging in articles like:
an ongoing campaign to use the underachievement of poor white people as a weapon to demonise antiracism

Please note the "meritocratic" use of the word “underachievement” and the writing “poor white people” instead of simply "poor people" to racialize “underachievement”.

BCFG said...

Hmmm, typical wokism from Asquith, speaking from the Jess Philips wing of the New Labour party! Of course being woke he offers no thought out argument to back his assertion, because simply saying it is enough for the wokists. This, among many other reasons, is why all genuine leftists should see wokery as an abysmal regression. I mean where would woke be without Twitter!

Another few things to add to the list of horrors in the midst of all this amplified wokery,

Jullian Assange literally rotting in British prison cell for exposing imperialist war crimes (clearly being fitted up, and clearly one of the world’s greatest and bravest souls). I remember a time when anti imperialism and anti racism went hand in hand on the left, people like Asquith are certainly on a mission to de-link those two! Another mission of wokery I guess.

Staggering levels of homelessness, with a predominant proportion of those people being either black or dark skinned. Get off Twitter for a minute, stop calling people racists for no good reason for a minute and and try walking around your town centre at night to see what I mean.